The art of mastering chess - a complete guide


Hello chessplayers,

Brah Brahsen here, I hope you´re all doing good. This is gonna be a complete guide for chess improvement, which might be especially useful for the lower rated players willing to improve their game. I am not sure if I will be able to put in everything I wanna say about this topic in one post so probably this will not be the last thread about it by me. What I am trying to show you in this post is what you need in order to become a master at chess and what distinguishs those masters from the average player.


Let me start with a short comparison of the different playing strengths. Dont get offended by some of the things I might say about the lower rated players, I have been there myself and the best you can do is to just admit that you are not good at the game yet but are willing to change that. Also note that this is just a general comparison based on my experiences with the different rating strengths.


Beginner level:

-0 game understanding

-full randomness in their games

-no opening knowledge, no tactical skills

-no idea how to win a chess game

-playing for simple tricks, playing "hope chess"

-no calculation ability

Intermediate level:

-some basic opening knowledge, mostly just systems or very simple lines like the Italian game

-they know some tactical motifs and few basic endgames

-they have no conception of positional chess or chess strategy

-they are often clueless and dont know what to do (middlegame)

-only superficial ideas behind their moves

-bad calculation skills

Advanced level:

-decent opening knowledge about the openings they play, still not very in depth and often caught offguard in specific opening lines

-okayish tactical skills, although still enough oversights

-knowledge about endgames and strategy existent

-they understand how to make a plan and what to do after the opening phase but oftentimes their plans are not the best because of lacking strategical understanding

-they have ideas behind their moves

-decent calculation skills, although their lines are oftentimes flawed

Expert level:

-good opening knowledge and understanding about their opening lines, not often caught offguard. still room for in depth inprovement though.

-good tactical skills, few oversights if not in time trouble, sometimes they see tactics that even masters did not see. there is not too much to improve in that part of the game.

-good knowledge about endgames

-good calculation skills, they can see many moves ahead without big mistakes in their lines

- good understanding about how to make a plan and what to do in the middlegame, they can find plans in most structures although not on the level of master players

-they dont make moves without a idea or intention behind them, mostly they are playing decent and understandable moves, not always the best though.

Master level:

- complete, versatile opening repertoire

- excellent tactical skills, tactical oversights extremly rare

- good-excellent endgame knowledge

- excellent calculation skills

- excellent middlegame understanding, they have huge knowledge about structures and middlegame plans

- the moves generally have a deeper idea behind them


I should mention too that in the master level range there are huge differences too of course. The difference between a Fide master and a super GM is enormous.


Now that you know the general skill level at each rating division it is time to concentrate on what to do to climb the ladder up to the master level. Chess masters have a huge game understanding which means they can say a lot of things about every type of position and every type of structure because they have experience and knowledge about them. He knows where to put his pieces, what matters in the position, what his opponent is trying to do and how he can proceed in the game in order to win. This massive chess understanding comes over time and is a product of playing many, many long time control games, analysing them, analysing openings and their specific pawn structures to understand what is possible for both sides in that structure and looking at high quality master games to learn from them. By doing all these things you can achieve the same results. Besides the chess understanding there is also the part which you could describe as Intuition. Why is it that the best long time control players are usually also the best blitz players? Because their intuition is super sharp. It tells them the best moves without having to think and calculate a lot. What is intuition? It is basically a product of all the theoretical knowledge and patterns you know about chess. This includes tactics, endgame knowledge and so on and so forth. They have seen so many different patterns and motifs that their intuition tells them when they see a similar position that that move and that move has to be considered because it worked in a similar position.

The skills that you need to practise to strengthen your chess intuition are these :



-middlegame plans/strategy

-calculation skills

Besides that there is also the opening part. In order to become a master player you need to build a excellent opening repertoire.

Lets look at how to practise and improve all these things starting with the opening repertoire. Your ultimate goal for the opening phase has to be the following: With black you wanna try to get a equal position which is not dead dry and still provides you winning chances. Against good opponents it will be impossible to get a advantage out of the opening with black so you generally aim for a dynamically equal position which offers you chances to outplay your opponent which is important if you are facing weaker opponents that you dont want to draw against. With white your aim is to get a slight advantage but at least a equal position. Even more as with black you really want to have winning chances with white out of your opening. These aims in mind you buy several opening books and/or buy a program like chessbase which has a opening book integrated where you can see all possible moves in different opening positions. With the help of these books you can build yourself a strong opening repertoire together completely based on your likings. You need to look at a lot of master games in those openings to understand them better and, and this is key, to learn the plans that you have in the middlegame. This is absolutely key and the only way you should learn openings. No idiotic opening lines memorization but instead understanding of the lines and the plans that both sides have in the middlegame. What you will then do is play a lot of long time control games and only use your prepared opening repertoire. Over time you will get a understanding of these lines, might want to rework some lines and finally at some point you will have a complete opening repertoire that you can effectively use against any opponent no matter what playing strenght.

Next is tactics. How to improve tactics? That is honestly not hard to answer as their are thousands of sources where you can solve puzzles. One note that I would like to make is that you should solve tactics about any kind of motif that exists, be it mating attacks or ways to win a piece or promotion combinations or whatever. Only after you know all motifs and every kind of tactic you can make a tick mark next to "tactics".

Same is with endgames. Just get for example the book by Dvoretzky which contains all possible endgames or just get a book where the basic and most important endgames are covered. Try to figure out what kind of endgames mostly appear in your games and focus on those to improve your endgame results quickly.

Middlegame plans/strategy:

This is definitely not as easy to learn as tactics or endgames, it is well learnable though. The main ways you can improve your strategical understanding are to get a book that focuses on strategy, characteristics of a position, weaknesses and so on and so forth and to analyse your own games or other players games to try and find out what plans exist(ed) in the middlegame or late opening phase. There is also a lot of content about plan finding. A simple way to develop a plan in the middlegame is to first look at the characteristics of the position, at the pawn structure, at weaknesses that you or your opponent have to understand the position better. Based on these weaknesses that your opponent has you can look for ways to exploit them like doubling your rooks on the file where a weak pawn is or putting your pieces in front of a isolated pawn to fully control it. It always depends on the characteristics of the position which plan is possible and effective.

Lastly the calculation skills. The ability to calculate long lines in a precise and accurate manner is very important especially in sharper positions where one mistake or miscalculation can decide the game. I suggest 2 methods or tools to better your calculation ability. Number 1 is to play blindfold chess. This can not only be a lot of fun and impress girls at a bar but also massively improves your ability to think of long lines in your head without seeing them on the board. Secondly I suggest you to solve blindfold puzzles. Here is how they work, you get a position and below that position stand the next moves that were played in that position. You have to play through these moves in your head and at the end find the winning tactic.

Here a example for you:

Moves that happened in the position below:

Nbd2 a6 Nh2 b5 Rae1 Qa5 Qd1 Nfd7 f4 f6 a3 exf4 e5 dxe5

-White to move









Thats it for today, peace out.


Honest feedback below please I can use that for my next articles. Thanks, your Brah Brahsen  .


Why didn't you just make a article instead of a forum?


I think the solution is Bxh7+ Kxh7 Qh5+

Also I think this is a very good article. I think there are some very good tips in here. I would just like to reiterate a few points. I like that you show people that they have to focus on the whole game. I know so many club players like 1600-ish who only think their problem is in openings, spend forever memorizing openings, and are too cocky to study other parts of the game if at all. Then I go over games with them, and they've missed so much stuff, but they don't look at it again. Or they look at it with a computer, ignore what they missed and spend the rest of the time arguing how the computer claims they could've had a win. You didn't really mention this, but I see club players change openings all the time. There's really nothing less productive than studying a new opening from scratch. But someone will get annoyed by the exchange french and switch openings, even though as you mentioned equalizing with Black out of the opening is hardly the worst thing. Plus there are drawish lines in every opening. There's not an opening where you can just hope your opponent will be faced by neverending traps. I agree with you, most people have no problems studying tactics. I would recommend a couple books Complete Chess Workout 1 and 2, and Chess Tactics from Scratch. I'm honestly not a big fan of the tactics trainer. A lot of the problems feel too composed to me, and unlikely to really occur in a game. Dvorestky seems like a complex endgame book for lower rated players. I would probably defer them to Silman's Complete Endgame Course first and probably Endgame Strategy by Shereshevsky, but maybe Dvoretsky's inevitable to break master. I have it, but it was too much for me. You were a bit vague about middlegame plans/strategy. "The main ways you can improve your strategical understanding are to get a book that focuses on strategy, characteristics of a position, weaknesses and so on and so forth" Any recommendations? I personally really like Aaagard's book Grandmaster Preparation: Positional Play. I think the outline he uses for identifying weaknesses in the position is very useful. Also Silman's Reassess Your Chess was very helpful to me. Blindfold chess is a great way to improve calculation abilities. Another technique is I solve endgame positions blindfolded.

Anyway, I don't mean any criticism or offense, just trying to give feedback, and trying to input certain things that have also been very useful for me.


That was very great Feedback @LacksCreativity!

You dont seem to lack creativity in that wink.png.  When I get home I will add a list of some books and other things you mentioned in your comment. If you like you could write your favorite books that helped you most, I will add them too.


calculation skills: any other alternatives? seriously, is there an option (3)....just asking - and yes, I've read about blindfold chess, and being blind and playing chess is NOT peas and carrots for me


hi there misses Lofina,

to improve your calculation skills you could also as LacksCreativity said is to solve endgame positions blindfolded. In endgames there is usually a limited amount of pieces on the board and normally a very straight forward and clean win. So this is definitely a good idea. Also just by solving tactics on the board you will better your calculation ability as you play through possible lines in your head. Just by practising to play through variations in your head that ability naturally improves. What I also like to do before I go into a OTB game is to play through my main opening lines in my head as some kind of warmup. Also recommended ;).


hi there Brahsen, will try, thx


No problem Lofina, have fun!


Thanks for your honest words Mephistophistophephelopheles! I am proud to be your disciple and hope you will teach me more of your ways. Sincerely, Brah Brahsen.


Its too complicated to me right now, to see the board unvisible, but I will come back to this article several times, and work a bit more. 

About middlegame: I was looking at GM Aryan Tari last saturday. I did like how cold he was. Both Evgenij Kulikov and GM Ringdal Hansen attacked him with pressure. He stood calm and defended and exchanged off one attacking bishop(Kulikovgame) while coordinating the pieces better and better. He made himself very smooth roads for queen and rooks, faked attack on the opposite castled king against Kulikov that made him to retreat a knight, weakening his attack, and switched superfast to a massive f-line-rook-queen attack . 

Later I tried to read another Tari game, because I would try to learn his way. That game was unreadable because it was so full of hidden unexecuted tactics that I couldnt get a clear picture. Maybe I see things better if I read it again. And again.

I am trying to climb from intermediate(fide 1461) to advanced (wants to outplay the 1800s).


Thanks for checking this out and good luck mate! Its really nice by the way to have like one player that has a playstyle you admire so you can check his games and learn a lot.


Wow Bobby nice!!! U got it. After Qh5 g6 and gg. 

Yes i will teach you so ur prodigy potential comes out fully.


Nbd2 a6 Nh2 b5 Rae1 Qa5 Qd1 Nfd7 f4 f6 a3 exf4 e5 dxe5

difficult to visualize - i can't see beyond Bxh7 - let alone beyond .....Qd1


Thats no problem Lofina. You will get there with practise and then look back at this exercise and find it easy.

IamNoMaster wrote:

Honest feedback below please

In the visualization exercise I didn't like how the moves leading up to the tactic contained weak moves from both sides.

In describing different skill levels, it's all relative. Words like excellent, good, decent, bad, terrible, etc don't mean anything.

Just glancing through it, I notice you say masters have a complete and versatile opening repertoire... that's completely false lol happy.png


Thanks for ur comment. Well that was an exercise that i made up myself within little time and is not meant to be super realistic. As i said above it it was only an example of how the blindfold exercises work .

About the skill levels... sure but i also said that. of course there is no way to generalize something that is true for every player that lies in the word generalize. And words like excellent good etc do mean something if you compare several things.

Your last point i also do not understand because a) how could you know with your rating and b) can you at least please give any examples for your argument?


Because I've played masters and they're not invincible. In the opening sometimes they get confused and start to guess just like anyone else.

In Axel Smith's book, he outlines what an ideal opening repertoire would include, but reminds the reader that perhaps no chess player on earth has met all these standards in every opening.

Also just simple logic... 2200-2300 is not even a professional player... of course their opening repertoire is not complete.

Anyway, the way you describe masters puts your real rating closer to 700 (or whatever it was you were claiming) than your rating... I wonder what some reasons for that may be tongue.png


2200 is not master level for your info. And I made this to simplify things for lower rated players (like yourself). How would it look if a beginner reads master players have still huge problems in openings bla bla bla. Would that sound good for a guide? No. And also honestly speaking their repertoires are pretty sound although there are surely some exceptions.

One sidenote. What I like about jealousy is that it shows what a person really is like.